Empowerment: the double standard of women in today’s society


Photo by Debby Chung

Debby Chung (right) has always looked up to her sister Miriam (left) as a strong female role model in her life. Learn more about why I think being an empowered woman is important in today’s time!

Parul Pari, Staff Writer

What does it mean to be a perfect woman?

My definition of being a perfect woman stems from my upbringing with seeing strong women fight for what they feel is theirs. I believe that a perfect woman is strong and powerful lady, who treats people with respect and kindness. Yet I have made an observation that in today’s society, women need to work harder to gain the same respect and honor given to a man due to cultural standards set across the world from centuries ago.

I have grown up witnessing some of the Indian cultural standards of women, even though I lived the majority of my life in Lake Zurich. The Indian culture I have inherited from my parents a defining part of who I am. Indian culture is filled with rich ancient history, vivid colors, and joyous celebrations. But similar to many other cultures, struggles with the equality of women.

Expressing my individualism is something that I have been accustomed to in my life, yet many other women across the world are not accustomed to having the freedom to do so.

I have gotten a mere glimpse of these cultural double standards for women, like the importance of cooking over education. Puja Lad, junior,  has had a firsthand experience in experiencing this discrimination in countries other than our own.  

“In my family, there is this continuous cycle of the obvious dominant males controlling the household, while inferior women take care of the home. When my mom graduated high school in India, her father denied her college education, as back then it was thought inappropriate for indian women to be in the workforce. My mom however, fought for her extended education and continued to use her career as a part-time housewife,” Lad said. “As me and my sister grew up, my mom would repeatedly engraved in our brains the value of a sturdy education, and how grateful we are to rightfully obtain it. In modern mentality I don’t think being female is in obstacle to gain education, but I find it empowering that my mom was the first woman in her household to get a college degree.”

The idea of women only having a role in the house was also experienced by Debby Chung, sophomore, in the Korean culture she has grown up with.

“Especially in Korean culture, a lot of people still think that it is uncommon for women to be seen equally as men, which tends to frustrate me a lot. I’ve been to too many dinner parties where I can find myself being able to pick a fight with some random Korean grandpa, because of his belief that women should stay in the kitchen,” Chung said. “However, growing up in Korean and American culture has allowed me to be able to understand that it is important to respect everyone’s opinion because everyone comes from someplace different, and they have their own opinions.”

I too have vivid memories of questioning my mom  why it is important for women to act feminine and polite rather than be themselves. My mother, being the strong and empowered woman she is, responded by saying that the way you act defines who you are and every person is different, so there is no cookie cutter standard that I should ever hold myself up to. From her I have learned to take what is mine and fight until I have the opportunity to get the same chances as anybody else.

I am a firm believer in the fact that the values you have been taught affect the way you act in the future, so the influence of a powerful woman in one’s life to guide them is more important now than ever.

The effect of having a strong woman in your life is seen in Alexis Nalek, senior, who values  her mother for setting a strong role model for her to aspire to be like.

“From a young age my mom has taught me to be independent, and accept nothing less than my best work,” Nalek said. “I have always looked up to her and I aspire to be as strong as she is. She handles challenges with such grace, and I hope that my daughter sees me that way some day.”

The same values of being confident and taking what you want was taught to Chung, by her role model, her sister.

“A very important female figure that I look up to is my sister. My sister is the biggest, baddest, feminist I know. I’m so grateful to have a role-model like her that is always by my side, and leads me in the right direction when I’m stuck,” Chung said. “My sister is the reason I feel comfortable speaking my opinion confidently, the reason I’ve become the social butterfly that I am, and the reason why I am a feminist.”

You can catch little glimpses of this unequal treatment, anything ranging from a guy not passing you a ball during PE soccer to the fact that the ratio of female-to-male weekly earnings was 82.5 percent or the fact that to this day we have not had a female president.

“One double standard that I have seen and experienced a lot personally is the school dress code. Males don’t have nearly as many clothing restrictions as females do, and it is very unfair. If I’m not allowed to wear a tank top, they shouldn’t be allowed to either,” Nalek said.

In my book, the idea of female empowerment is to enable women to feel equal and confident in every environment they are put in and to never feel less than a man solely based on a gender. You were made the way you are, and instead of repressing a part of yourself that makes you different, I think one should use that as a way to make the world a better place.

“The reason of female empowerment is stemmed from the doubt in confidence, lack of civility and fear of rejection. [Women] are all told to hold our stance in a powerful manner, to gain that confidence. [Women] are all told to speak up loud and proud to notice our civility. [Women] are all told to suppress our doubt, and believe that rejection turns into success and acceptance,” Lad said. “However these standards do not only apply to women. This female empowerment is truly necessary, but I do not believe it should be constricted to the female population.”